“Jack took a daring step forward, freeing himself from my grip and faced his father aggressively, ‘What about happiness?! Love?!’
‘Love means nothing!’ the man screamed, his face turning red.
Jack didn’t back down- ‘You loved my mother!’
‘And look what it got me! She’s dead and I have you as-”
“Mabelle!” A voice screamed, tearing me from my book. I looked up at my bedroom door as it creaked open and my sister stood on the other end. She was excited about something, I could easily tell by her smile and the adventurous glimmer in her eye. I sighed, not wanting to abandon the book, and desperately wanting to know what happens next, but for the sake of my sister, I shut the book and set it down.
“Yeah?” I yawned, standing. My long dress was wrinkled from hours of sitting in awkward reading positions, and I sloppily bent down to straighten it out.
Katheryn, my sister, stepped inside the small bedroom I’ve had since I was a child and closed the door behind her, something she always did when she intended to discuss something our mother wouldn’t approve of. Kat was older than me by two years, and much prettier. She was taller with shoulder length blonde hair that always seemed to naturally fall into perky curls, sharp facial features, and expressive green eyes. She was striking compared to my, frankly, very plain appearance. Not that I minded. My long blonde braid and dull features matched my personality, and I wasn’t fond of attention, regardless of positive or negative.
“Listen, Mabelle,” Kat said frantically, placing her hands on my shoulders, “I found something. Something really crazy, but cool, and you have to come with me to see it,”
“Right now?” I yawned. The sun was beginning to set, and I didn’t want for much more than to sink back into my book and retire for the night.
My thoughts were evidently clear as she seemed to read my mind. “Yes, right now. You read books all the time! This, could be a chance for a real adventure.”
“I’m not certain mother wants us going on real adventures,”
“Leave that to me.” Kat rolled her eyes, “Just come on!”
“Okay, okay,” I sighed. This was not the first time I had been dragged somewhere by my sister, and I was certain it would not be the last. I had learned over my seventeen long years of existence, that when it comes to Kat, it’s best to just go along with whatever new idea possessed her. I followed Kat through the quiet house, and eventually found my mother, sitting on a cushioned chair, frowning at piles of yarn as she knitted with shaky hands. Her hair was a shade darker than mine and Katheryn’s, and tied into a bun so tight it stretched her face. She was wearing a large, floral covered sun hat she never seemed to take off, regardless of being indoors.
“Mother, we’re going on our evening stroll,” Kat announced, walking towards the door as I followed her as inconspicuously as I could be.
“Be safe, and Katheryn, darling, I have very important news for when you return,” my mother nodded, waving shortly before returning to her knitting. We exited quickly and Kat was quick to run off in a strange direction.
“This way,” she explained as she tread through the thick grass. “You’ll never believe this. It’s actually really close by, I’m in shock that we’ve never seen it before,”
“What is it?” I asked, my curiosity beginning to nip at me. I really did want to know more.
“You’ll see,” Kat spoke with excitement, not wanting to ruin the surprise. We walked in silence, both lifting our heavy skirts to walk quicker through the uneven terrain, and eventually, I understood Kat’s urgency. I could not believe my own eyes as I stared ahead. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
I clutched the locket I have worn religiously since I was a small child in a tight fist. It was the last thing given to me by my father before he died, and knowing I have it with me makes me feel somehow safer. I often held the small metallic heart when overwhelmed as a way of coping. I took several deep breaths taking in the full scene. “It is,” I offered, a grin plastered onto my face, “for once, I’m glad you tore me from my books.”
Before us stood a massive carnival. A large brick fence with massive wrought iron gates surrounded the perimeter, but above it’s walls I could see tall constructs peaking high above the wall. Reds and yellows and blues invaded my eyes, appearing so bright despite the dim evening, and thousands of small lights only furthered the glow. As I stepped closer I began to hear a tune emanating from the perimeter. It was cheery, bright and upbeat, adding to the spectacle. “This is ten minutes away from our house,” Kat said in wonder, “and we never knew about it,”
“I’ve never even heard of it,” I laughed, “How has no one told me about this place?”
“I just did,” Kat joined in my laughter, “But I know what you mean. Bad advertising is indeed a tragedy. Nevertheless, I did some research before I brought you here. I’m not sure of the hours, but it is open every day of the week. It won’t be easy, but I suggest we convince mother to let us come here tomorrow,”
“As if,” I sighed. Kat’s words brought me back down to reality. “It’s amazing, but it’s far from the ideal place for a ‘lady’. There’s no way mother would let us come here and play like some common orphan.”
“Perhaps with you,” Kat gave her classic charming smile, “but I’m her favorite.”
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
“Absolutely not.” Mother declared promptly after Katheryn posed the question. “I will not have young ladies like yourselves, my own daughters even, prance around some elaborate playground like some common orphans!” I shot Kat a knowing glance.
Kat sighed, “But, mother, this carnival is amazing, it must be new, it’s extraordinary, and only a short distance away.” Mother looked off to the side. For the smallest moment, I thought she might actually be considering giving us a day to have fun. But that wasn’t like her.
“My answer is final.” Mother spat. “Besides, it will be difficult for you to go out when you will be very busy preparing for your wedding.”
“Wedding?” Kat asked.
“Indeed,” Mother nodded, standing and walking in a refined manner to the hallway closet. “Katheryn, you are nineteen now, and still without gentleman. Your clock is ticking, and that is why I have made arrangements for you. I was planning on telling you earlier, but you know how life can be sometimes. So busy…”
“Too busy knitting to tell me about my own wedding? When is it? Who will I be marrying?”
Our mother halted and rotated her body to face Kat. She raised her hand and swiftly hit Katheryn, her ring leaving a small cut on her upper cheek. I gave a silent gasp as I watched from behind. “Watch your tone, young lady, that is no way to speak to your mother,” she spoke sharply, and resumed her walk to the closet, followed by Kat and myself, “To answer your questions, however, you’re scheduled to be married to Maxwell Foale, the day after tomorrow. He is a handsome man, and from my meetings with him very polite. Not to mention, he has a formidable future, and you can rely on resting in comfort for the rest of your days. His father works directly for the king himself.”
Kat was silent, and I studied her expression. She was surprised to the point of near amusement. She didn’t seem unhappy nor happy, just... shocked. I couldn't blame her. My sister was to be married. Mother finished digging through the closet, and pulled out a many layered, lacy white dress. “This will be your gown. It’s the same dress I wore when wed to your father, and will look brilliant on you for your special day.” She tossed the gown into Kat’s hands, and made her way back to where she was sitting. “Tomorrow, we will style you, and the day after, you will become a woman,”
Become a woman. The words rang in my head. I was not the one under fire, but my sister’s sudden engagement was enough to send me into a panic. I wrapped a tight fist around my locket, letting the familiar touch calm me and stood placidly in the corner of the room, watching the scene unfold. “Mother,” I said shyly, deciding it was best to defend Kat, “you didn’t give us any notice at all,”
“She should have expected it,” Mother croaked, “She’s nineteen without a suitor. At that point, an arrangement is necessary. I can’t have my eldest daughter become a lonely spinster. What would that say about me? And I suggest you start looking as well, Mabelle, seventeen is a ripe age for courtship. Now, go off to bed both of you. The next few days will be incredibly busy.”
We didn’t have much choice but to obey, and we walked up the stairs hand in hand. I wasn’t sure if the touch was meant to comfort myself or my sister, but I was thankful for it regardless. Arranged marriages were very common, though it seemed unreal that it would be happening to my own sister.
“I’m to be married,” Kat said softly at the peak of the stairs, “I don’t know who my fiance is, but I’m to be married in two days,”
“I’m sorry,” I comforted and hugged her. She felt frail in my arms, despite the fact that she was always the stronger of us. I wasn’t sure what else there was to say. Katheryn received her stubbornness and persistence from our mother, but Mother outdid her in both. There would be no changing her mind. “I wish I could help,”
“It’s my fault,” Kat sighed, “I should’ve looked for someone I could stand to be my suitor before mother took it upon herself,”
“Don’t blame yourself,” I begged, “We both know mother’s antics, this was bound to happen. Likely it will for me too,”
If Kat heard me she didn’t show it, “I’m going to have to move out to live with my husband,” she muttered.
“I’ll visit you every day,” I promised. Katheryn smiled.
“Goodnight, Kat.” And with that I departed quickly to my room as tears begin to fall down my cheeks and swiftly fell under the covers. I had no time to reflect on the books I had read; only thoughts of the upcoming wedding flooded my mind. I was unable to think of anything but Katheryn and her mystery man. And then, in a dizzied state before I lost consciousness, I thought of the magnificent carnival.
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